Recent studies have linked back pain with increased blood pressure for a number of reasons, including stress, lifestyle, disease and genetics. But did you know that how you breathe also has a profound effect on both back pain and blood pressure?
And that you have the ability to change that by learning where you need to breathe more?
Think of the middle of your body or trunk as a pressure regulator from your vocal cords, diaphragm and all the way down to your pelvic floor. It is like an unopened carbonated beverage of your choice, such as Coca-Cola , Pepsi or LaCroix. When that can of beverage is intact, there is an inherent pressure built up inside. Once you pop the top, the pressure releases and you can pour out your beverage into an icy glass and enjoy. In other words, the pressure inside the can has now changed. Your blood pressure can do that too and how you breathe affects it, as well as genetic factors, cholesterol and disease.
Ideally you need to breathe proportionally in your upper chest, and lower abdominal cavity with the diaphragm in the middle helping to push the pressures up and down. But when you have too much of your breath focused in one of those areas, your blood pressure can increase or decrease. Over time, your muscles accommodate and work more or less in one of those areas, and your blood pressure can either increase or decrease beyond what is healthy for you for the long term.
In just 5 minutes in a physical therapy session with an emphasis on dynamic breathing with eccentric control, my patients have been able to lower their systolic blood pressure by up to 20 mmHG!
Try this at home to find out where you breathe:
- Use a measuring tape or any long tubing or band and wrap it around your chest underneath your arms
- Take a big breath in and then let it all out and see how many cm/inches/ or estimate how much the tubing moved
- Now wrap the measuring tape, tubing or band around the middle or your body or just under your ribs.
- Repeat step 2
- Finally wrap the measuring tape, tubing or band around the lower part of your abdomen or at the umbilicus or belly button area.
- Repeat step 2
- If your measurements were relatively the same at all 3 levels, then Congratulations! You are an even breather!”Keep calm and Carry on”
- If your measurements were highest in the upper chest, then you are a chest or neck breather and may want to focus on diaphragmatic breathing and getting your breath into your belly. This will help to lower your blood pressure and decrease neck as well as low back pain. Here’s your exercise: Blow into a party blowout or blow bubbles through a straw to begin to work your diaphragm and teach your body to breathe down there
- If your measurements were highest in the middle region, then you are a lateral breather and that is quite athletic and efficient! “Keep calm and carry on”
- If your measurements were highest in the belly region, then you probably don’t have a lot of low back pain, but you may have upper back or neck pain with some blood pressure issues. Try to focus on more diaphragmatic breathing and upper chest breathing. Add in pectoral muscle strengthening exercises like push ups, pec flys, and shoulder strengthening exercises.
*Reference and credit goes to: Mary Massery Breathing Continuing Education Courses.
Schedule your consultation either by Telehealth or in-person to find out how to get the most out of your breath today!